The First Power
In my capacity as an outpatient psychologist, I have worked
with people for almost twenty-five years. By far, the single
most central element, the one thing that pervades almost every
other issue is self-esteem. It touches everything-sex and
relationships, work problems, anxiety, depression, addictions;
you name it. There are four primary elements of self-esteem.
I call them "Powers" because when we develop any one of them,
we become more personally powerful. The Four Powers of Self-Esteem
are: Worth, Competence, Ego-Strength and Self-Acceptance. This
article is about the First Power. The following is a quote from my
ebook on this subject.
"Worth is the First Power and the most common term used to
describe self-esteem, which is also why it can be confusing.
Specifically, Worth has to do with your basic feeling of value.
Are you a basically good human being? You might even think of this
category as "Goodness" instead of Worth. Both work. Are human
beings worthwhile as a species? Are you valuable? Important?
What are the markers of our Worth (and I don't mean lots of money,
although that can contribute...). If you are Catholic and believe
in original sin, you have the potential for a negative Worth right
out of the starting gate. You can repair this, but you have to do
what Catholicism prescribes, then you'll be OK. If you happen to be
Buddhist, you may not have this problem, but if you believe in
reincarnation then you "messed up" in a previous incarnation and have
to "come back" to better yourself or atone. You're still not "OK"
right from the beginning.
Another dimension of Worth is health. Are you mentally or
physically ill? You might have a basic sense that you are defective.
Are you adequate? Or, do you feel useless or flawed?
Another dimension has to do with your characteristics. Are you
significantly different from others? Are you too tall? Too short?
Too many freckles? Too smart or dumb? Are you not so handsome or
not so beautiful? Do you think you are not the perfect weight?
These are all "default" values, ones that most people think they
are more or less stuck with and therefore probably cannot change."
The Worth scale tends to reflect early history or chronic
conditions. It has a lot to do with our fundamental values, usually
gleaned from our family-of-origin. Of the four powers, it is the
first to develop and tends to be most central to our functioning as
adequate human beings. It is also the most difficult to change if
it is faulty. Fortunately, it can be changed using a variety of
It is important to understand how strong or weak our sense of
Worth is. To do this, there are lots of tests of self-esteem, some
of which directly measure this and the other four powers.
(One such test is one this author created that can be found in an
ebook located on the websites listed below.) Any test that measures
family-of-origin values will usually touch on this very central
experience. This usually provides one of the first directions in
psychotherapy, which is a process of talking about and uncovering
early experiences, and then looking at how they play out in our
current lives. Self-esteem is central to virtually every aspect of
our current lives. We just do not recognize it often because it is
so pervasive and blends in so well with our daily goings-ons. It is
always functioning in the background of our awareness.
Basic worth overshadows the other three Powers in relationships
because it usually starts controlling personal relationship dynamics
about the sixth month into the relationships. The same dynamic
usually underlies work problems, particularly those related to
relationships (employee-employer troubles). Failure to understand this
results in troubled personal and work relationships. Specifically
relating to the personal relationships, when two people have
reciprocally damaging senses of Worth, partner experiences can become
very, very trying. These relationships usually fail without
professional help. This is the subject of another article and ebook.